Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Questions

This year for Halloween I’m going as a blogger. Here are this week’s FQ’s.

TF leads off:

Do you have a favorite on screen credit "title card" for want of a better name?

That is to say - a favorite broadcast image from a show with your name juxtaposed against something/someone pretty/weird.

See the above screen grab. This was from the movie VOLUNTEERS. As a baseball fan it was cool to have my name over Roger Maris hitting his historic 61st home run.

This was another favorite.  Our first.  It was from THE JEFFERSONS and at the time, we had no idea whether this would be the ONLY on screen credit we'd ever have.  
From Belle:

Throughout the course of MASH Hawkeye has a habit of sniffing his food before eating it, something which seems to have started quite early in the show's run. By the time it was actually acknowledged properly, it had been happening for a while. Do you know if that was something that was written in and just not used straight away, or if it was something Alan Alda started doing and the writers eventually decided to use?

It’s something that Alan came up with. The food, by the way, was not bad at all. It was from the commissary. The problem was they’d be eating for quite some time. Most of the time we had scenes in the mess tent there were five or six people sitting at the table. We did multiple takes – masters, two shots, and singles for reactions. So two bites could easily turn into twenty.  That's a lot of creamed corn.

Stephen wonders:

Ever written something that, looking back with more modern sensibilities, you wish you had done a little differently?

No. Not for PC reasons. Whatever I wrote was appropriate for the times. I can’t worry that maybe two generations from now some people are going to find a certain reference offensive. Get a life future generations!

There are however, shows I’ve written in the past that I wish I could have back, but that’s because I feel I could now tell the story better or beat the jokes.

Matt asks:

It seems to me several TV shows have such strong premises that I don't see how they can be long running shows. For example QUANTICO. There are 12 recruits, one is a spy. Once you catch the spy what is the series about? How can you delay catching the spy more than one season?

Is this type of problem a concern or does everybody just assume that if it is possible they will figure something out.

It should be a concern, but apparently it’s not. Networks are now so desperate to hook in viewers that they will mortgage a series’ future to open big. What will BLINDSPOT ever do that’s more compelling than finding a hot naked tattooed woman in a duffle bag?

Networks now just hope that once a series is launched the producers will find a way to keep the stories going. And often they don’t.

Take PRISON BREAK. The first year was great, watching inmates planning their escape. But once they got out the series wandered all over the place.

As a showrunner, it was always important to me that anything my partner and I developed had legs. We were going to be the ones breaking stories. We were the ones who sitting in rewrites at 3 AM. If we didn’t know what the show was about we would be trapped in that room forever.

I’m waiting to see long it will be before another naked girl will be discovered on BLINDSPOT. This time it will be a star. Stunt casting.

I’m also waiting to see how long before the tattoos will be ads for products.

The Bumble Bee Pendant asks:

We really like UNDATEABLE on NBC. We liked it when it was taped before a live studio audience and now that it's always LIVE before an audience.
The show is consistently laugh out loud funny and we smile the whole way through.

I know NBC forced it to play live (twice a night) for it to be renewed and on the air (Friday nights).

However, doesn't this eventually hurt the syndication of the reruns? I can't imagine LIVE shows play as well on a repeated cycle. Doesn't this hurt the property and the payments for the future?

Not if the show is genuinely funny. If the only reason it survives is because of the novelty of the live presentation then that will wear off soon. But if it's entertaining in its own right, then it should do fine.

What’s your FQ?


Bill in Toronto said...

Ken, exhibit A: the broadcast television model is in turmoil or broken. Exhibit B: NBC's ratings continue their long slide and the comedy genre practically has been abandoned. Exhibit C: you have the credentials of being on staff /showrunning / contributing to a multiple hit sitcoms over the decades, many in relationship with NBC. My pitch: A hail mary pass is NBC's only solution. It turns away from a non-suit and hands over sitcom development and greenlighting to you for, say, a limited period of time. Potentially restoring the glory of NBC and/or network TV is quite the way to top off your career! What say you?

ally said...

Why is your name before David's on the title card? Did you flip a coin to decide?

David from Boston said...

Belle asked a great question about Hawkeye and how the smelling of his food became a "thing," a recurring habit that you would later expand in an episode. I have a similar question about the Simpson's character Sideshow Bob. Were you involved in the rake bit in which Bob steps on a rake and then mutters frustration. Then steps on another rake. More muttered frustration. Then again. And again. Then we pull back to see dozens of rakes all turned with tines up. This bit - which always makes me laugh - gets called back in other episodes, sometimes coming out of nowhere (what are rakes doing on a dock in the witness protection episode?)

Who came up with that, and how do you know how much to repeat the bit? Is there a rule that you follow or is it instinctual?

Anonymous said...

HOmeland did pretty well after they solved the premise.
Quantico is ridiculous from the beginning.
For a while Psych completely forgot about Shawn pretending to be a psychic.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Hi Ken, Friday question:

So, I'm watching and laughing along with Cheers and one of the bar wars episodes you guys wrote (S11-EP19, Bar Wars VII, The Naked Prey)when I see a familiar face sitting at the bar.

What in the Wide Wide World of Sports was golfer John Daly doing as an extra? :)



Patrick said...

Here is my Friday Question:

Its been a long time since a show not named Game of Thrones surprised me, but all that changed with this weeks Nashville. No spoilers, but they basically bait and switched and killed off a main character pretty shockingly. How does something like that stay a secret for so long before it airs these days? Is it a closed set with a smaller crew? Do you guys worry about shocking moments getting spoiled? Do writers love getting the opportunity to write shocking scenes like this? Thanks

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I actually asked that exact same question about Hawkeye sniffing his food quite some time back, but it's nice to know now that it was something that Alan came up with himself - but I still wonder if it's something he came up with intentionally, or if it was a real-life habit he had that he eventually incorporated into his character habitually. On a side note, they were always complaining about the food on M*A*S*H, yet during the first season, their food didn't seem all that bad at all: they had hamburgers, rare steak, fries, fried chicken, pork chops, among other dishes.

I still can't believe that awful show UNDATEABLE got a second season. Show biz really is still obsessed with selfish, reckless, irresponsible, and mindless sex, aren't they?

Bob B. said...

Friday question --

I believe this episode was filmed before you started working on MASH. Early in Harry Morgan's tenure there was an episode where Burns and Hot Lips gave him a carved bust that was Colonel Potter with Asian features. Do you know whatever happened to that? Did it wind up in someone's office? Given to an affiliate? Destroyed by the prop department?

Todd Everett said...

I didn't take long for Daphne to lose her psychic powers. And didn't the entire premise of Remington Steele change after a couple seasons, with "Steele" doing the real detecting?

Ben said...

One show I still watch, but is beginning to jump the shark, is "How to Get Away with Murder," which should be renamed, "How to Keep Getting Away with Murder Until We Have One-Hundred Episodes for Syndication."

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Alan Alda actually seems to be a food person - each of the movies he's written and directed has a great food scene. (From SWEET LIBERTY, I learned how to decore a lettuce in one easy thump.) So I'm not surprised he would think of his character's checking the food before digging in.


Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Wendy He was on a talk show a number of years ago (can't remember which) and he was embracing his Italian roots by cooking up a dish (might have been chicken parmesean, or something similar, I just remember it being loaded with a tomato sauce).

John said...

Re: potential PC problems due to times changing and things that were OK before not being OK now, some of the lines between Hawkeye and Trapper about the nurses during the first couple of seasons of M*A*S*H would no doubt bite the dust today, and you can see the show moving away from that type of humor by Season 4 (to the point I think by the time Ken and David were around, they were doing stories specifically about Hawkeye objectifying women.

I also ran across this story last week that was written by Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall as one of the final episodes of "The Danny Thomas Show" in 1964, and featuring Italian child singer Piccola Pupa. I suppose it's still tame enough to run on COZI-TV, but I can't imagine a plot today that would be based around a 12-year-old girl marrying a 16-year-old boy (which isn't to say the episode isn't funny, just that it would cause a shirtstorm if done in 2015).

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

@joseph scarbrough
Undateable is certainly not mindless sex show. It feels like a half hour with people who are buddies in real life.
The live shows have a very loose plot line.
Most of the actors are stand up or improv comedians, so you never know what will happen.
While repeat viewing may suffer, the 1/2 hour it's on is entertaining.
It's a party, and fun to watch with other people.

Give it a try again. If you don't like it, well there's always something else on.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

btw, for Roger Rees fans who commented here when he died: it appears that he was for many years a vice-president of a small community theater in Ealing (west London) called Questors, and they're having a memorial evening to consider his life and career on Sunday. Should anyone be nearby...


Kyle said...

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Show biz really is still obsessed with selfish, reckless, irresponsible, and mindless sex, aren't they?

Only because the public obviously continues to want to see "selfish, reckless, irresponsible, and mindless sex." If it didn't sell and didn't draw viewers, you wouldn't be seeing it. Hollywood is ultimately all about numbers, and sex draws 'em.

MikeK.Pa. said...

"So two bites could easily turn into twenty. That's a lot of creamed corn." Two bites of creamed corn is two bites too many.

"What will BLINDSPOT ever do that’s more compelling than finding a hot naked tattooed woman in a duffle bag?" Finding out she's just one of triplets - also naked and tattooed.

Couple Friday questions: I believe Lennon & McCartney decided on writing credits by alphabet (L before N except after C). How did Levine wind up ahead of Issacs on your credits. Also,just curious, what blog registered the most comments and how many?

Howard Hoffman said...

@Bumble Bee Pendant: I'm fascinated by how the entire UNDATEABLE experience is this season. During the week, the cast and crew are constantly on Periscope to bring people in on the making of the sausage - without giving away any of that week's plot lines. I think their use of social media is brilliant, and it engages the viewers a lot more than just throwing a hashtag on the screen to "talk about it."

Last week, they got people to tweet their hashtag with a code word, and random viewers got their names on the chalkboard. During the show, they give out phone numbers (the one in the first episode with Chris D'Elia getting calls from viewers was hilarious), and they'll sneak in a Periscope-cast or two while the show's on.

Sure they've obliterated for fourth wall, but the vibe of them "putting on a show" and bringing us into it is certainly novel and mostly fun. They may be on to something.

Andy Rose said...

Friday question: I seem to recall the occasional inside joke on Frasier, particularly when a former Cheers cast member would make an appearance. Is there any form of inside joke that you consider to be too inside for your taste? Would you ever have an actor play a character they had previously played in a different series, like Lisa Kudrow did on Friends? Or maybe dress up for Halloween as a different character they had played? What about a character indirectly commenting on something for which the real-life actor had recently been in the news? What about having an actor's real-life spouse play a character's hated ex-spouse (like on Parks and Recreation or The Odd Couple)?

One other observation related to series with a storyline that doesn't have much wiggle room: I think a lot of new dramatic series are being hurt by the fact that their pilots are just too elaborately done. Many pilots these days are basically moderate-budget feature films that can't possibly be replicated week-to-week, for both budget and time reasons. A few shows with fancy pilots have managed to maintain the look of the pilot (The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad both come to mind), but some producers seem so intent on throwing in the kitchen sink to sell their pilots, they don't consider whether they can do it justice on a weekly basis.

Gary said...

Foe what it's worth, in Alan Alda's movie The Four Seasons, his character mentions that it drives his wife crazy when he smells his sweatshirt before he puts it on. When I heard that line I immediately thought of Hawkeye on MASH.

gottacook said...

Andy Rose: The big expensive drama pilot that the series can't live up to is nothing new, it just seems to be more frequent these days. The first such that I saw - and it was great - was the pilot for EZ Streets, the Paul Haggis series some 20 years ago on CBS. That series quickly failed, Another better-known example (the Lost pilot) was produced 12 years ago. In both cases, I'd agree the series couldn't match what the pilot was promising - although in the case of Lost the disappointments were dribbled out slowly, with the biggest one saved for the end.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Joseph Scarborough: I can believe that.

Someone mentioned THE FOUR SEASONS. I can never think of that movie without thinking of the big Chinese meal the men cook in the first segment.


Johnny Walker said...

The issue of having a premise with a big hook like that is an interesting one. The creators of TWIN PEAKS had the same issue: How long can they delay revealing the killer of Laura Palmer? How long before he viewers get tired of the mystery not being solved? (Or begin wondering about competency of the FBI Agent investigating the case.) As LOST proved, however, you can keep a mystery going for a very long time!

But it's true that TV shows tend to revolve around unresolved issues. As soon as they're resolved, the show tends to be over! With movies, you're trying to figure out a way to resolve something in a satisfying way, with TV shows you're trying to keep it unresolved in a satisfying way.

To use a very old example: What would Richard Kimble have done once he'd found the one armed man?

Anonymous said...

Had a girl friend who ALWAYS smelled her clothes before putting them on.